When ABC Action News anchor Linda Hurtado was deciding whether to tell viewers she had breast cancer and would leave the air for five weeks after a double mastectomy, there was one person whose perspective made all the difference.
After a conversation with Robin Roberts, the Good Morning America anchor who announced in 2007 her own breast cancer and surgery, Hurtado knew she had to go public. And she had to do it during a live broadcast.
"(Roberts) said she wanted to take ownership of her story, release the details herself," said Hurtado, 44, who spoke with Roberts just a few days ago. "It's ultra personal. … I feel like the first few days when I come back, everyone's going to be looking at my chest."
In a shaky voice on the verge of tears, Hurtado told those watching WFTS-Ch. 28 Tuesday that tests had found breast cancer in its early stages. And because her mother died in 1995 from the disease, she would have a double mastectomy.
She is scheduled to have the operation today.
"I have spent my whole adult life in fear of getting breast cancer … so when I was diagnosed with breast cancer about two weeks ago, it made me cry and it literally brought me to my knees," she told viewers. "I'm also the health reporter and it's breast cancer awareness month. And over the last 17 years, I've asked so many of you to share your truth with me. So I can't just disappear for a while without sharing mine with you."
The station then aired a story on Hurtado's diagnosis. After learning she didn't carry the gene which signals a predisposition to the disease, Hurtado almost didn't get an annual mammogram.
But knowing that she always tells viewers to get tested, the anchor went ahead with her own tests — finding a cancer too small to feel and imminently curable.
Still, she decided to have a double mastectomy. "After watching my mother die and now seeing the fear in my own children's eyes, I decided to only dance with this devil once," she said in the story.
She also has created a website with a list of locations where underinsured women can get mammograms.
"I was going to wait until I was already at the hospital for them to air the story, but I thought people need to see I'm okay," said Hurtado, an anchor at WFTS since 1995. "I just want women to have mammograms every year. If you catch it early, you still have a choice over what to do with you body."